log in

Mourning

Yoshifumi Okamoto

An ambition and impulse that were eternal were suddenly severed. If I were to tell about the very happening, I would only be at a loss and respond with but a large blank. The work of thinking what can be attained from treading through an overwhelming exhibit and how to use it in which Kitani san (with all due respect, I will refer to him as “Kitani san” as I have come to do on a regular basis) had wagered a small amount of effort cannot be done by a single person, but is a work that all must bear. In the end, one is to break his heart and polish it even to its smallest pieces; rather than being bound to the pursuit of a motionless shape, one makes repeated failures, returning to zero, and while scattering in multiple directions, accumulates an abundance of experiments and only daringly moves forward. That should be what I learned first from Kitani san. A practice that is not an interpretation. Isn’t that what Kitani san had always advocated? “To enter the casket alive. Thus, I thought about how to surpass (my) redundancy. That is, an incident is <the  way of death> of oneself and the existence of oneself up until then, and as if slowly making a descent, rushes towards the point of that explosion or split, may be the act of feeling that very power that is a <birth> sustained by an arriving ominous velocity. Together with the fact that ‘I’ in itself is a casket; it is a wooden pail filled to the brim with water for the first time. To come into contact with the point equivalent to the cry in the urgency and arrival of death…”(*

Dairakudakan Temputenshiki’s “Binbo na Hito” in September 1979. Between the prologue and the ending in which the musical piece based on the quote from the Gregorian chant mass, “Dies irae,” resounds was the night on which  Dairakudakan and its branches came together to celebrate the completion of Toyotama. I had seen him make guest appearances at Dairakudakan until then as well, and my breath caught at the sight of Kitani san’s Mummy. I stopped breathing, and in a state that is just a little closer to the realm of the dead, I was tormented with a tightness in my chest and knocked down completely. At the end of that year, it was at a recital wrap-up event hosted by Mitsutaka Ishii also from Toyotama--I have no memory of how I had managed to slip into the dinner party. Kitani san who came late sat next to me; with his frightening face and moustache, not to mention dancing Mummy, to be honest, I was terrified.  I took the flyer for the performance at Hokuryukyo in Fukui in March of the following year. The Butoh troupe Sebi’s performance, Hinagata IV’s “Organ and Vitriol.”I was played into a clever invitation that contained both a modest heart and raw strength, and somehow, it came to be that I exposed myself at that performance when I was the most weakly connected to Butoh. From then on, it was the speed of lightening. Unbelievably, adorning the opening of Studio Alta in Shinjuku was Sebi, and while still incompetent I followed in the footsteps of Kitani and his choreography, participating in “Mummy,”“Talafumara Trans,” “Buto Yamai no Soshi,” and other works that unfolded from the name LOTUS CABARET ’80s as the base, as well as working behind-the-scenes for Ariadne no Kai’s performances. I may have also extended to the lowest seat for Golden powder show at the Asakusa Rockza. At the time, at the rehearsal hall in Omori and Sanno, I had many opportunities to learn at Kitani’s side. Within the house of books, I immersed myself in reading and finding the lines Kitani had drawn, and strained to listen to the critical comments surrounding Shinobu Orikuchi, Ango Sakaguchi, Rene Char, and others. “Emotional training.” I think to myself, once again, that I truly was given the opportunity to experience such a luxurious and rich time, one that could be summarized in that single phrase.

“Luxury.” Certainly, this is a keyword that we cannot be without when talking of Kitani san. Together with luxury, “dignity” was also an important part of his teachings. However, as there are no words that fall so low in worth, so it is difficult to convey. Kitani san’s mentor Hijikata had held “dignity” in high esteem. In 12th century, Troubadour and Bernart de Ventadorn from La Provence’s poem “Yorokobi…,” Brecht songs reminiscent of Flying Lizards, Japanese court music and Steve Reich, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Keith Jarrett’s piano solo, theater music that Xenakis and Kouran and Pointer Sisters blends in with a calmness. When I think of “La pastoura als camps,” the first song from the first series of Chants d’Auvergne (the second song is “Bailero”), and XTC’s “Making Plans for Nigel” resounding in the excessively spacious second floor of Hokuryukyo in Fukui, even now a light heat engulfs my ears. If that is luxury, too, then the stage settings in the performances from Sebi and Ariadne no Kai that were filled with an almost excess of physical liveliness were also the epitome of luxury. Not hiding his disgust of a single taint on the black flooring spread across the floor of the stage—that was Kitani san. After going solo, never allowing the meagerness of his sound materials to be revealed, along with Morton Feldman’s piano played at a soft and modest volume, he transformed them into the colors of a luxurious theater space.

No matter how poor and unreliable a place may have been, if Kitani san intervened even for just a moment, it became an extraordinarily luxurious theater. When the lines of a body folding in itself is tinged with electricity and comes into contact with the floor, the surface indecisively becomes distorted. The limited space blends and resonates with the lines of the body, freely expanding and contracting, assuming a thickness. Seizing a small house itself and shaking intensely, creating a bold action that sounds—what a luxury this is. The philosopher that Kitani read again and again: the work of forcibly embracing from behind, engraving a transvestite and creating a new monster, was seen as a tenacious embodification. “I am <Ko Murobushi> at present/<Ko Murobushi> is a theater/I am a <theater>/I was born to be this <theater>/Once again, by chance, I am <Ko Murobushi>/All of that is <Butoh>/That is already you that is me/A me of outside that came from outside of me/ The dis-tanz is Butoh that is prominent here, now/A dance that cannot be danced/(omission)/The theater become outside - another place/<Ko Murobushi> is you, just a process that is but trying to depart far into the distance/Because the outside comes as a process/It is a yosomichi (other way) that has no place to return to/Is it the live until arriving at death, isn't it?/However, it is a behavior that continually transverses and revolves/a immobility…something else, an invisible… something else, something else…between before and after/… …”

Let’s stop rewinding the film of memories. Speaking of Kitani san in the past tense, to have experienced the devotion through <Ko Murobushi--theatre>, is certainly understanding in an instant what is perpetually forbidden. Guided by a back that makes one shed tears, other than continuously proceeding down the single zig-zagged path, all the while stumbling, there is no other path.

*“”are quotes from Kitani san’s written manuscripts

translation
Vinci Ting
2015
“toward <outside>! toward <transit>!”